In Part I of our “Love of God” mini-series, we discussed how God loves and how the Love of God is based in His character and nature. With a right understanding of God’s love, we can have a right response to Him. This past Sunday, we looked at 1 John 4:19-5:5 in order to see exactly what our response to God should look like.
Our first response should be to love God (1 John 4:19). If God is primary in His own affections, then He should be primary in our affections as well. How this plays itself out can be seen through the Greatest Commandment (Deuteronomy 6:5). Moses tells Israel, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might.” So what do each of these mean?
- Heart – To the ancient Hebrew, the heart was the seat of the intellect. Therefore, Moses is telling Israel to love God with their understanding. This is done through two main avenues: God’s word and prayer. If I want to love God, I need to learn about Him and grow in my knowledge of Him. If I want to know Him more intimately, I need to pray and seek His face.
- Soul – To the ancient Hebrew, the soul was the location of the inner-being and emotion. When I love God with my intellect and learn about Him, it will affect my heart and change who I am. We must love God by allowing Him to change us from the inside out.
- Might – The Hebrew word for “might” can be most naturally translated as “abundance” – money, possessions, time, abilities, skills, etc. When I love God with my understanding and allow Him to change who I am as He changes me from the inside, it will change the way I treat the things I have. I will use what I have and what I can do as a means of honoring and loving God.
Loving God means recognizing who He is and seeking to live a life that pleases Him and brings Him glory because I know that He deserves it. It involves, my intellect, my emotions, and my actions; to put it another way, it involves every aspect of my being.
A natural outworking of my love for God will be the recognition that I need to love others as well. John told us that it is impossible to love God and not love one another (1 John 4:20-21). Instead, John makes it clear that part of loving God is keeping His commands and loving one another is the fulfillment of those commands (1 John 5:1-3). There are a myriad of ways that we can love one another, but first and foremost our love for one another must be based in an understanding of how God loves so that we can be sure to honor Him by how we love one another. Some examples of this are found in Colossians 3:12-14: “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” If we will conduct ourselves in this way with one another, we can be sure that we are loving each other and honoring God in how we love one another.
Ultimately, this love for God and for one another must be built on our faith in Jesus (1 John 5:4-5). Apart from faith in Jesus, we cannot honor God, cannot love God, and cannot truly love one another. Recognizing the love of God as displayed through His Son, Jesus, we can respond in faith by first giving our lives to Jesus and then living our lives in response to what Jesus has done.
The world does not love like this, but God loves in a way that is contrary to how the world loves… and so should we. If we want to honor God in how we respond to His love, we must first love God and then seek to love others in the way that God first loved us.